Juneau gets religion, again, as threat looms

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2001

The following editorial appeared in Voice Of The (Anchorage) Times on Aug. 25:

Once again Juneau is getting religion. It does it every time there is a movement afoot to move the capital or relocate the Legislature. This time it's the latter proposal that has the Juneau merchants and local political leaders beating the drums for an old-time revival meeting in a big tent filled with loud music and loud orations. Hallelujah, y'all come.

When these assaults on Juneau's pet means of keeping the rest of Alaska at bay for its own economic ends pass by, as they unfortunately have in the past, the capital city slips easily back to its old ways. In all too many recent years, these habits have been directed by a growing crowd of greenies who are opposed to logging, to mining, to cruise ships, to tourists, to commercial fishing.

And such attitudes, reflected in Juneau's budding cluster of environmental lobbies, have separated the city from the mainstream of Southeast Alaska's hopes and aspirations.

The timber industry for the most part has been driven out of Southeast Alaska, and hundreds of jobs have been lost. Mining has been a struggle, barely scraping by in a couple of isolated places and with other promising prospects shut down, apparently for good, as a result of opposition from Juneau greens.

Tourists are welcome elsewhere in the Panhandle, and the cruise ships are a delight to the people of Ketchikan.

But the economic fallout throughout the region to other communities, because of Juneau's self-satisfied we've-got-the-capital-and-sorry-about-you attitude, has been severe.

The result has been that Juneau has lost a lot of support in its zealous claim to both the capital and the Legislature.

Hence its need to find religion yet again as a new petition drive is being mounted to move the annual sessions of the Legislature to Wasilla, closer to the majority of Alaskans. The cost of traveling to Juneau is enormous, both for the legislators and for ordinary citizens wanting to make contact during lawmaking sessions.

Everybody knows it. Even the Juneau tent-revivalists.

But now, with a new threat looming, Juneau once again has put on its preaching clothes, singing the praises of economic development and its love for all the people of Southeast Alaska.

Only this time it may not work. Its fallback on Old Time Religion is beginning to sound a little hollow, a bit insincere.

The capital may stay. But the Legislature, at last, may hit the road.

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